With new coach, with
young team, Stars set
to start 2016-17 season
By Justin Sokeland
The sun, promising a better day and a brighter future as it pierces the darkness, rises each morning with its energy, its expectation, its hope. Dawn, so glorious and beautiful to behold, is not instantaneous. The amazing process unfolds on its own timetable.
Beadford North Lawrence basketball is about to start a new era. As with each sunrise, no matter what happened with its predecessors, the dawning is a fresh start. The past is not forgotten, for it influences the decisions of the future, but the direction can be changed.
With a new head coach, with a revamped program, with an anxiously young and inexperienced team, the Stars will begin anew on Tuesday night. They will be greeted with wonder, with questions, with excitement. Clouds will appear, storms will fire up. Anything could happen on this day.
Matt Seifers, the eighth coach in program history, has taken over a team in total transition as he succeeds Jamie Hudson (now at Bloomfield). BNL went 14-11 a year ago and lost eight seniors who represented 87 percent of the offense. The restart button has been pressed. From the coaching staff to the roster, the Stars are almost completely different.
Seifers promises no immediate success, nor should he. The constant question surrounding this change has been ‘How good will they be?’ and that’s almost unanswerable. With only two seniors on the roster, with two sophomores and a freshman in the projected starting lineup, the Stars are so young that no one knows.
“We sat down over the summer and put together a long-term plan of where we wanted to be,” said Seifers, who took over in May and has been busy ever since. “We were very realistic. You can always get caught up in the day-to-day stuff, and there are things we do in practice because other coaches would get more caught up in the day in front of them. It can get crazy if you get caught up in that. But we are honestly trying to build for down the road.
“It’s a lot of basics and fundamentals. A lot of the things that will be huge for us, you have to build those every day. We’re spending a lot of time on those, trying to grow each piece of the game. Hopefully it all fits together at some point.”
When assessing and predicting BNL in 2016-17, what is the starting point? Seifers has a limited varsity history, with one boys season at Mitchell and two girls campaigns at Southport. Only two returning Stars saw any significant or sustained varsity action last season. They’ve had only six months to prepare.
While that’s certainly a disadvantage, some aspects can work in BNL’s favor. The Stars have the exuberance of youth. Nobody has yet proven to them they cannot be successful. They are willing to listen and learn, and that has made the hasty transition much smoother.
“They don’t know any better,” Seifers said. “If I can pull a Jedi mind trick on them and get them to think they’re better than what they are, or they shouldn’t be as scared as what they are, or as nervous as what they are, then we will be OK. That truly is an advantage. If we teach them the right way, tell them we’ll be OK, maybe they will believe us and go out and do it.
“It’s more of a blank canvas than someone who is older. You can do more things with them. The toughest thing for seniors is to come in and change everything. The younger kids don’t have to change as much.”
So what does BNL have?
The sophomore backcourt could be a strength. McCall Ray, who contributed 3.3 points last year, and Jathan Ritter will be the main scoring threats. Ritter is a fearless perimeter sniper, while Ray will be the club quarterback.
“McCall has just blown up since last year,” Seifers said. “He can see the court, and he spent a lot of time on his game. The ability to hit a pull-up jump shot doesn’t happen very often in today’s game. With his athleticism to get it off, that will be huge.
“I think Jathan will be one of the better shooters around. When he gets his feet set and is square, he’s pretty good. And we have the athletes around him where he will get open looks.”
Inside, 6-3 junior Isaiah Stockman will be asked to shoulder a huge load. He averaged 5.6 points in a reserve role last season, but he’s going to be the main interior defender, the only rebounder with any size, and the best option in the paint.
“Isaiah understands, and maybe I put too much pressure on him, but as he goes, we’ll go,” Seifers said. “He’s kind of the catalyst. When he’s going, he’s very difficult to guard. Now he has to put in so much time and effort defensively, trying to hang in there, and he’s working hard on both ends of the court.”
And then there’s the freshman. Brayton Bailey will play on the court with his father’s name painted on it. Comparisons are unfair but inevitable. All second-generation players face that, but the son of Indiana legend Damon Bailey will be measured against a standard almost impossible to reach. This Bailey is unique.
“Brayton is a fantastic basketball player,” Seifers said. “He has put a tremendous amount of time into his game to get better. Here is what you will get from Brayton: he was the fourth leading scorer (in the scrimmage at Columbus North), and he doesn’t care. If he’s the fourth leading scorer every night, we’re going to be pretty good.
“There will be nights he has big games, and there are games he will have 6-7 assists. He just fills the stat sheet. I don’t think he will blow people away with the point total every night, but he can score when he needs to and he has the ability to do so many other things. He will help the team no matter what.”
The rest? What do they offer? Good questions with no set answers. Junior forward Gaven Moore (the fifth starter), seniors Shawn Ritter and Alex McCutchen, and junior Koby Byers will likely be in the rotation in some capacity. BNL is going to have issues with interior defense and rebounding, with experience in pressure situations, and the schedule is relentless. They will have to grow up quickly.
“It’s a learning process,” Seifers said. “We know, going in, there are key parts of the game we’re probably not in the advantage column. It will come down to staying focused long enough to do those things to get us through.”
Brown County, a late edition to the schedule, is the first obstacle, and the Eagle are another unknown. BNL has not faced them since the 1975-76 season. BC went 14-10 a year ago, and they will feature 6-10 center Josh Cochran in the middle. That’s a big task.
“It’s a game that will be good for us,” Seifers said. “We talk all the time that 90 percent of what we’re trying to do matters with what we do, and not what somebody else does. We’re trying to make sure we do what we want to do.”
BROWN COUNTY at BNL
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: BNL 0-0; Brown County 0-0
Series: BNL leads 2-0
Last meeting: BNL posted a 78-58 victory during the 1975-76 season.
Game note: Chuck Hutchins is starting his third season as the Brown County coach. The Eagles went 14-10 last season. The Stars also conquered Brown County 80-66 during the 1974-75 campaign (BNL’s first season). Both games were at BNL.
BNL starting lineup
F – Gaven Moore 6-0 Jr.
F – Brayton Bailey 6-1 Fr.
C – Isaiah Stockman 6-3 Jr.
G – Jathan Ritter 6-2 So.
G – McCall Ray 5-11 So.
Brown County starting lineup
F – Isaiah Keefauver 6-5 Jr.
F – David Norman 6-2 Sr.
C – Josh Cochran 6-10 Sr.
G – Jordan Samples 5-11 Sr.
G – Ezra Scully 5-11 Sr.